In this CareerFoundry mentor spotlight we’ll be taking a look at the work of self-confessed technology enthusiast and “wiki queen” Julia Debari. If you're thinking about becoming a UX designer, take a look at Julia's story: she could be the inspiration you need to take that next step into a new career in technology.
Collaborator, then designer
Working as the Principal UX Designer for Dell computers has allowed Julia to broaden her network of contacts and to work with teams of people from a wide range of disciplines, and it’s the team effort that really drew her to the role. She told us: “I am not a hero UX designer; I am a collaborator”.
Julia has always had a keen interest in people and their behaviour, yet knew she did not want to be a psychologist. With her desire to create things and with the advance of the internet in the 90s Julia jumped at the chance to fit into the UX industry. The opportunity to work with a plethora of different people and to work on projects where no two days are ever the same is what she finds keeps her work in UX fresh and exciting.
Julia stresses that each day is a little different; she could be leading a brainstorm, going to various stakeholder meetings, creating a sitemap or wireframe, and interviewing users all in the course of one day.
Working with people
This passion for working with new people has fostered Julia’s interest in helping students starting out on the pathway to becoming UX designers. Working with CareerFoundry she is able to assist newcomers to the field and to work within the education industry: “I love the education space so anything in that industry is interesting to me”, she said. Julia has a wealth of experience in online education, she has taken a number of classes online herself and has mentored for various different programs, as well as creating course content. Julia enthusiastically proclaims “the advent of mentoring online is really helping to both improve and grow online education as a viable medium for learning new skills”.
Julia has certainly been very successful in her role as mentor, with one of the highest graduation rates out of the UX mentor team at CareerFoundry. Admitting that the students themselves are the most rewarding aspect of mentoring, Julia now knows that she can “learn a lot from the students just by them asking me questions about anything. It’s a great feeling!” Talking through concepts with students face-to-face is what keeps them engaged, especially during their bi-monthly Skype calls.
A great mentor is someone who is able to steer their students through the difficulties of online education, helping them to remain engaged despite the trials of studying while working or raising family.
So what kind of difficulties might a UX beginner encounter and what steps does Julia recommend to overcome them?
The most common difficulty, Julia has found, is time management. Students are often taking the CareerFoundry courses in their spare time outside of work and their social/family commitments. Julia helps her students remain on track by ensuring that she makes it clear what she would like her students to achieve by their next Skype call.
The difference between UX & UI Design
Julia finds that it is important for a mentor to distinguish between UI design and UX design very early on. Lots of students begin the course and initially focus too much on over-designing the time-management app Taskly. Understanding the difference between graphic design and user experience design is important; asking a student why a decision has been made is a great way to get students thinking and get them focusing on the user behaviour.
This ambiguity around what UX design actually encompasses means that students must be careful when looking for the right resources. Julia has some exemplary suggestions:
“my personal favorites are the All You Can Learn library by Jared Spool’s UIE consulting group. It has a terrific collection of videos and they are constantly adding to it. InVision’s blog is a great resource for articles about what different people in the industry are doing and design trends. Another newsletter I read regularly is The Polar Bear. It has a great collection of links every week on different UX and Design topics”
Julia shares these useful resources and many more with her students throughout their time on the course. This knowledge of best practices and insider advice is one of the huge benefits of the courses being lead by mentors.
Julia is an inspiring mentor, one who can give her students career advice and pearls of UX wisdom; when asked what is the best advice that she can give to wannabe UX designers, Julia maintains that her keen interest in working with other designers has created an awareness of what soft skills are also needed within the industry. Despite the industry being stable and growing daily there are certains skills that can set you apart from your fellow UX designers, these are:
“facilitation, coaching, selling ideas and being flexible. UX Design isn’t just about deliverables, it’s also about people that you interact with whether on a project or the users of the product you are designing”
If you would like to study with a mentor who is at the top of their game in the tech industry and who has a wealth of advice to give you; both in terms of personal progression, UX design and the latest trends - sign up to CareerFoundry’s UX Design Course, with mentors like Julia on board you are sure to succeed!